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September 10, 2008

Alberta again - Summer 2008

IMG_7995_editedIn the middle of the night the mountain fell. 

At 4:10 am on April 29, 1903 ninety million tons of limestone crashed from the summit of Turtle Mountain and buried part of the sleeping town of Frank, AB.  70 of the 100 people in the path of the slide were killed.

The rock mass that fell was 150 metres (500 feet) deep, 425 metres (1,400) high and 1km (3,280) wide and covered an area of 3 square kilometers (1.2 sq. miles)

IMG_7985The rocks are huge and the debris field is eerie to wander through.

The primary cause of the Frank Slide was a combination of the mountain’s unstable geological structure, water action in cracks, underground coal mining and severe weather conditions.

Mind you, the First Nation residents of the area already called it “the mountain that moves” and wouldn’t camp at the base.  They were smart!

The road today runs right through the debris field and the railroad also runs at its base.  The mountain is still unstable and we learned that many sensors have been placed and are constantly monitored.  The Interpretive Centre opened after extensive renovation, a few days after we visited.  

The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is made up of the former coal-mining towns of Bellevue, Blairmore, Coleman, Frank and Hillcrest and we spent another day visiting the various historic sites in these villages.

Wed. morning, August 27th. we headed east, still on Hwy 3.  When we reached Hwy 22 about 20 km down the road, we turned north toward Calgary. Ross - Alberta 006_edited

On our way up Hwy 22, we stopped at the Bar U Ranch, a National Historic Site. This ranch, founded in 1882, at it largest, encompassed 157,960 acres and reported 10,410 cattle and 832 horses.

The buildings are original, although some have been moved from outlying areas and the backdrop of the Rockies is beautiful.

Ross - Alberta 007


They had a “round -up camp” set up and we had our first taste of bannock.  It’s an unleavened dough that is fried in fat in a heavy frying pan, over the open coals. 

We had it served with both jam and a honey walnut spread.and it was very good.

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We have been travelling so long through mountains that it was quite a change (relief?) to come into the foothills and be able to see long vistas and generally flat roads.

A visit with my cousin and his wife, a visit to a dentist for an abscessed tooth, as well as taking the trailer in to the Hitchhicker dealer for some maintenance took a couple of days while we were in Calgary.

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We visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller which is about 125 km (75 miles) north east of the city.  Internationally recognized for its palaeontological research, extraordinary collections and dynamic galleries, it sets out the story of the evolution of earth and the golden age of dinosaurs.  We had visited there many years ago – I think about 1987 – and found many new and much improved exhibits this time.

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We returned to Calgary by a different route, driving south on the Hoodoo Trail about 16 km (10 miles) along the Red Deer River before heading cross country back to the city.

The strange sandstone formations called Hoodoos are found right beside the highway and there are trails through them that can be hiked. They are very fragile so no climbing.

Hoodoos are sandstone pillars resting on a thick base of shale that is capped by a large stone.  The cap rock is very hard and protects the soft lower layers from erosion. 

In the Blackfoot and Cree traditions, the Hoodoos come alive at night to hurl rocks at intruders.
Ross - Alberta 013_edited

It was an easy drive south from Calgary on Hwy 2 and we travelled through beautiful flat rich aglicultural land (note the irrigation circles).

We stayed in Fort Macleod, as a base camp,  for 3 nights, as we wanted to visit areas both east and west of the town, and it’s much easier taking only the truck.
After we set up at the campground, and it was early in the afternoon, we headed east to Lethbridge.    The city was founded in 1870 and is an agricultural centre as the area reportedly receives more hours of sunshine annually than any other spot in Canada. 

Ross - Alberta 012_editedAs most of you know, Ross has a penchant for trains, and things train. Lethbridge is the home to reputedly the longest and highest bridge of its type and construction in the world.

Built in 1909 it is 5,327 ft. (1,623 metres) in length (1 mile plus 47 feet).

It is still in use today.

Sept 2nd, our first full day in the area we went to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a Provincial, National, and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Native people stampeded bison over these cliffs, channeling them to the drop by cleverly placing rock and trees and directing the herd with waving arms, yelling and arrows.  IMG_8027_editedThe buffalo provided them with food, clothing, tools and shelter, ensuring their survival.

The name comes from a young brave who wanted to witness the spectacle from under a ledge at the foot of the cliff.  Unfortunately, his skull was crushed as he became trapped between the carcasses and the cliff.

The seven story interpretive center, built into the cliff, has displays focusing on geographical and climatic factors of the tribes.  There are also short trails leading to the hunting site.

We continued further west, to return to the Frank Slide area, so we could visit the Interpretive Centre which had been closed earlier.  It provides history about the area and the mining that took place there as well as the slide (of course).  It was well worth the return visit.

Ross - Alberta 014_edited

On our way there, we followed a gravel road for about 40 km. and saw some huge cattle herds.

Now, we’ve travelled a lot of miles on this trip on gravel roads and never had a mishap.

Yes, you guessed it. On this stretch of gravel a stone flew up from a truck we met and hit the windsheild.  We ended up staying another day in Fort Macleod to get it replaced.

We left Fort Macleod on the morning of Sept 4th, with our destination somewhere close to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

IMG_8051_edited We only had about 100 km (62 miles) to travel, so we had lots of time to stop in Cardston, at the Remington Carriage Museum.  It houses the largest collection of horse drawn vehicles in North America – 250 pieces of buggies, carriages, wagons and sleighs. 

Started in 1954 as a private collection, Don Reminton donated his then 48 vehicles to the Province in 1987.  Alberta built the beautiful museum and consolidated another 175 vehicles in the same place.  Another excellent stop.

After lunch we finished our trip to the Waterton area and set up camp a bit outside the park.

Ross is writing about our visit to this National Park that is twinned with Glacier  NP in the U.S.

Bernie & Ross

Posted by Bernice at September 10, 2008 09:05 AM


This journal truly made me homesick. Lethbridge as you know, is my home town and I have very fond memories of my "growing"( yes, Ross, to 5'2") years and happy memories in the windy city.
Waterton Glacier was my teen-age playground as a camp councillor, waterfront leader, etc.
Paul & I were married in Southminster United Church in Lethbridge, followed by a brief honeymoon in Waterton Glacier, AB and St. Mary's, Montana, yes 50 yrs. ago. Prior to our long journey back to ON by car.
As stated, this is very nostalgic territory for me, having studied about the Black foot & Cree.
I was fortunate as a little 3 yr. old to travel via Greyhound to spend time with my maternal grandmother residing in Fort McLeod, AB
As Bob Hope always said "Thanks for the Memories"
I will try to forward an e-mail from a classmate of mine who now resides in Southern Ab.
Hugs, Shirley

Posted by: shirley blain at November 3, 2008 10:04 PM

This may be superfluous becuause I've replied before. You do a terrific, very interesting chronicle. Brings back good memories from my road trip (Mobile, AL to Anchorage- Sept-Oct 1957. More recently, visited Drumheller and buffalo jumps but did't know about Frank Slide, bannock @ Bar U or unique bridge near Lethbridge. You've had the "Trip of a Lifetime" and more. Thx for sharing. Larry

Posted by: Larry Harwood at November 4, 2008 06:00 AM

More very interesting country--haven't been there other then the slide area and it looks truly fascinating. Hoodoos are so unique--lots around Annie Springs canyon near Crater Lake and of course in Utah. I think you two just have too much fun other then going to the dentist. Sincerely, Bette

Posted by: Bette Andrew at November 8, 2008 06:10 PM